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Georgia Public Service Commission fails to expand State Solar Program for benefit of citizens


The population in Georgia after the census is estimated to be 10.85 million. As a state, Georgia is the eighth largest and should be a leader on issues that impact citizens with the Public Service Commission (PSC) looking out for our interest, but the state is not. Instead, the state is operating with agencies, such as the Public Service Commission, that have failed to serve the interest of the people of Georgia. 

The latest failure comes in the form of solar panels. A motion to expand a popular program allowing customers with solar panels to cut their energy bills failed to pass. This is the pilot program launched two years ago with a limit of 5,000 participants. 

Citizens who were interested quickly signed on. The demand quickly exceeded the capacity. Additional citizens wanting to get into the program demanded that the PSC do more by increasing participation. 

Well, the PSC did something last week, but it wasn’t what the people wanted. They rejected the request to open the program up to more citizens. Despite demands by Georgians for solar capacity, a majority of the Georgia Public Service Commissioners voted against expanding a popular solar program that filled up with 5,000 participants in under two years. 

Commission member Tim Echols made a motion to expand the highly successful solar program but only received the support of Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, whereas Commission members Fitz Johnson, Tricia Pridemore, and Jason Shaw voted against the suggested improvements. Johnson and Echols are both on the November ballot, which should give disappointed ratepayers the opportunity to express their opinions on their services to the citizens with a “no vote”. 

Disappointed with their vote, Joel Alvarado, Vice President of Strategy and Engagement at Partnership for Southern Equity said, “At a time when families across the state are already facing the strain of record-breaking inflation and financial uncertainty, the Commission failed to expand bill-saving clean energy opportunities for struggling Georgians. We are disappointed, but the fight continues. We are turning our attention to the Georgia Power rate case where we will combat rising electric bills and forced reliance on our monopoly utility.”

Codi Norred, Executive Director for Georgia Interfaith Power and Light said, “Despite strong public support for expanding net metering for rooftop solar customers, a majority of commissioners voted down Commissioner Echols’ motion to expand the program. We know that more solar makes sense for Georgia and we’ve seen its tremendous success at the utility-scale. Our faith communities will continue to fight for similar progress when it comes to rooftop solar.”

Jill Kysor, Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center said, “Despite strong support from intervenors and the public for greater access to rooftop solar, which gives customers greater control over energy usage and electric bills, a majority of the commissioners voted against expanding the program in the resource planning proceeding. We hope the Commission will reopen its popular net metering program in Georgia Power’s ongoing rate case. 

Now more than ever, Georgians need more control over their electric bills. Georgia Power is asking the Commission to increase monthly electric bills by nearly $15 per month for residential customers in its rate case, underway now. And that will be the first of several big hits for customers – next year customers will likely see steep bill increases due to sky-high gas prices and ballooning costs from the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project.

Despite rejecting the demands of citizens related to the solar program, the PSC did approve Georgia Power’s long-term plan for generating and distributing electricity, which allows Georgia Power to continue its phase-out of its remaining coal-fired power plants and replace them with natural gas and solar energy. The transition away from coal is not occurring fast enough for some environmental groups who point to the impacts of climate change — largely due to the burning of fossil fuels.


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